No More Do Overs

with Mary Louise Kelly

What happens when the people we built our lives around stop needing us? Or when we have to pick between our meaningful careers or our family? And what do we do with the ambiguous grief that comes with every expected and unexpected change? Today, Kate takes an honest look at juggling the demands on our time and on our heart with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly.




Kate and Mary Louise discuss:

  • Debunking the women can “have it all” paradigm and what happens when the things we love come into conflict
  • The limitations of gratitude
  • How our callings pull us into a wider sense of who we belong to
  • How to savor (and mourn) all the lasts as your children grow older

This may be a conversation about parenting, but I think there might be something in here for anyone who wonders: Who am I as my relationships change? Can I still find myself there?

Mary Louise Kelly

Mary Louise Kelly is a mother, a daughter, a wife, a journalist and a novelist. The order of these titles—the order by which she defines herself—might shift, depending on which moment you catch her. But since 2003, when her first child was born, “Mom” has been the name she is proudest to answer to.When not driving soccer carpool, Mary Louise co-hosts All Things Considered, NPR’s flagship evening newsmagazine. Previously, she spent a decade as national security correspondent for NPR News, and she’s kept that focus in her role as anchor. That’s meant taking All Things Considered to Russia, North Korea, Iran, Ukraine and beyond. Mary Louise’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Newsweek, and other publications. A Georgia native, her first job was working as a staff writer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.Mary Louse has written three books the latest her memoir, It. Goes. So. Fast.: The year of No Do-Overs. She also has written two thriller novels.Mary Louise was educated at Harvard University and at Cambridge University in England. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their two sons.

Show Notes

Read Mary Louise’s Memoir It.Goes.So.Fast.: The Year of No Do-Overs.

Listen to Mary Louise’s interview with Hanna Hopko in Ukraine.

Kate talks more about callings with Will Willimon in this episode called Your Work is a Calling.

Mary Laura Philpott is a mother and author who understands the fear of parenting. Explore the fears of parenting in her book Bomb Shelter and in her conversation with Kate, Everybody has Something.

The blessing at the end of this podcast is “for aging gracefully” can be found on page 56 in the book The Lives We Actually Have. You can get a copy here.

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Discussion Questions

Discuss this episode with a book club, friends, or bible study group. Here are some conversation starters:

1. Kate and Mary Louise discuss the anxieties that many parents carry and their shared struggle to abandon what Kate calls “a paradigm of perfect choices.” Whether or not you are a parent, what pressures do you face in a world that tells us we can have it all if we make perfect choices?

2. In Psalm 90, the psalmist prays, “Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” What events or milestones in your life have compelled you to grow more aware of time and its fleetingness?

3. At the end of the podcast, Kate and Mary Louise talk about life as a series of “acts.” What kind of act or season of life are you in currently? What might it look like to live intentionally in the present moment of life’s current “act”?

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Kate Bowler: What happens with the people we built our lives around stop needing us, or when we have to pick between having meaningful work and our family or just people who need us to take care of them? There is a particular kind of grief and I can hear it when people say things like, “Oh, it all goes by so fast.” Or “Just cherish your kids.” There’s like a a panic in there, isn’t it? And that, I think, is a kind of ambiguous grief that comes with every expected and unexpected change. So I thought maybe today we could have a conversation about that feeling in parenting. And I think there might be something in here for all of us who wonder in any capacity, who am I as my relationships change? Can I still find myself there? My guest today is so good at tracing that feeling that she’s had over the course of her life: who she was before she had kids, who she was while she was in the throes of parenting. And now, as she looks ahead to empty nesting or what she calls her “third act.” Who is she now? I feel almost certain you know her. My guest today is Mary Louise Kelly, and she doesn’t know yet. But we have been longtime friends, at least through my car, radio and earbuds. And that’s because she’s the co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered. She’s had a really incredible life. She spent her career reporting often from war zones on matters of national security and intelligence. And now she is sharing her own carefully observed life through her new memoir, called It. Goes. So. Fast., an honest look at juggling the demands of time at heart as a mom of growing teenagers.

Kate: Mary Louise, thank you so much for talking with me about this today.

Mary Louise Kelly: Thank you. I’m so happy to be talking to you.

Kate: I absolutely loved your book and one of the very first things I want to ask you is about vocation. We have a listening community full of a lot of people who feel very called to their work, teaching or social work and it sounds like you have a really deep sense of calling with the work you do.

Mary Louise: I do. I mean, I remember I edited my high school paper, and as I was working my way up to that lofty post from my entry level, you know, freshman and sophomore year reporter on the school paper. I was Interviewing our … he was the assistant principal of the high school, but that doesn’t do him justice. He was the disciplinarian. He was the guy you got sent to, you know, when you got in trouble and you were going to have detention and your parents were going to get a phone call, you did not want to get sent to Mr. Connolly. And I interviewed Mr. Connolly and I was terrified of him. I went to a school where we had uniforms and I got really worked up about some change in the uniform, which I thought was deeply unjust. I think it had to do with your earrings, couldn’t dangle, you know, so that if you pulled them straight up, they couldn’t come above the top of your ear. Anyway, it was some deep travesty of justice. And I went to interview them and I only worked up the nerve because I was doing it for the paper. And I questioned him and he took all my questions and I wrote about it and and they changed the policy and it was this deep moment of thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t Mary Louise Kelly that did that. That was the Lovett newspaper that did that.” He listened to me and took my questions and took them seriously and then apparently thought about them because I was asking on behalf of the student body through this newspaper. And it was such a lesson in the power of the platform and the responsibility of it and the joy when you managed to correct a social wrong that is deeply hurting people. And I laugh looking back, but I have taken that with me, you know, in asking questions about all kinds of things, just realizing it is just this immense privilege to wield the microphone or the notebook and the pencil and ask questions to people in positions of responsibility who wouldn’t take my questions. But they’re taking them from my organization and all of the people who listen or read or watch the news organization that I’m with. And I love that. I love being able to do that and hold people in positions of power to account. And I’ve always found that just how can you not want to wake up in the morning and want to do that? Like, how cool is that?

Kate: So cool. It does seem to … I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about that on the podcast because normally when we’ve been talking about vocation, we think about, you know, the way we get called into things. And I love the fact that your call story is like, “There were earrings.”

Mary Louise: The truth that must be told. This was the Eighties. So remember, we took our big earrings seriously.

Kate: They got bigger and bigger and bigger. But I don’t think I’ve thought enough, until you said that, about how our callings pull us into this wider sense of who we belong to, and that through these platforms you get to feel that you that your voice becomes everyone’s questions and and like the intense honor of the of the horizontal-ness of our callings. I guess it’s less about us then and so much more about the community into which it calls us.

Mary Louise: I think that’s true. That’s a really nice way of putting it. Yeah.

Kate: Vocation is also very strange because we stop doing very good math, you know, because we love it so much. I think maybe that was my first … I always wanted to be a professor and I didn’t I frankly didn’t care how long it took or how many hundreds of hours I would spend interviewing televangelists throughout my twenties. I stopped counting. And I think that’s how maybe I could tell that it was a calling and not just a job. Just because there wasn’t going to be very good math for how much I loved it.

Mary Louise: Exactly. Exactly. It took me well into my career as a broadcaster and interviewer to forget about I’m interviewing someone, I’m asking questions, and they’re answering, which of course, is at the heart of what I do. But more, I’m having a conversation. I just need to listen to what you’re saying. And that as, you know from the job that you do, is is harder than it seems.

Kate: Yes. Right. Because you have to actually be willing to be wrong or be embarrassed or maybe be, I guess, changed by other people.

Mary Louise: Or venture down a rabbit hole that may lead you absolutely nowhere because someone says something interesting that has nothing to do with the five questions you meant to ask when you went into the interview, and especially when you’re doing it live, you’re thinking, okay, they just dangle this really interesting thing. Do I follow that? I totally should. How can I just let it go by? But if I follow that, I’m not going to get to ask these other things, which I agreed with my editor were absolutely vital to ask. And I got 90 seconds. Where are you going to go?

Kate: I think maybe one of the only good thoughts that I had early on about parenting was that wisdom would be learning what to love. And then I was like, oh no, I already know what to love. I’ve got work that I love. I’ve got people that I love. But you write so tenderly about the fact that our loves often come in direct conflict. What happens when the things we love begin to come into conflict?

Mary Louise: Yeah, I mean, this is the question at the heart of all of it, isn’t it? I started thinking about this just so intensely as my children have become teenagers and the trade offs have become so much more clear. I think when they were little, it was really hard to leave them and go off to report from the war zone or just go off and, you know, do the daily work in the newsroom. But there was always going to be another chance to make a different decision and stay home, to be there to do the thing. And in my job, there’s been a really just head-to-head conflict for several years now because both my boys, who are teenagers, loved soccer, have played soccer their whole lives and their varsity games, which are like the focal point of life, are at 4:00 pm on weekdays. And I go on air with All Things Considered at 4:00 on weekdays, and you cannot be in two places at once, no matter what the engineers try to rig up for you in terms of remote working situations, I cannot anchor All Things Considered from the bleachers. And every game, I would kind of think about it and think, well, I’ll figure it out next time, next week, next month, next season, next year. And the seasons pass and the years pass. And suddenly I had a boy who was a senior and we were staring down the last games and there weren’t anymore. And I found it relatively easy to come home from a war zone to say “no” to the big trip, to turn down the big interview because it’s going to stand in the way of something. It’s the little gray choices that are tricky. If your kid has something really big and important, of course you’re going to make the effort to show up. And it’s not about not making the effort, but it’s the little ones where you always think, well, next time I’ll figure out how to be there and suddenly you realize the next times have all stacked up. And the the trade you made was work was always more urgent. It was always there and the deadline was there. And so trying to figure out, okay, I’m out of next time’s; I don’t have any more do-overs. I got to get this one right!

Kate: “I’m out of next times.” It does feel impossible in the middle of it, right?

Mary Louise: There’s so many next times. There’s so many times to show up and be perfect mom and pick the perfect bedtime story. And you’re all going to be in your footie PJs and it’ll be great. And then suddenly it stops. Which is the goal, which is what you want. That’s the happy ending is that they grow up and need you less and less and less and less.

Kate: It took me 20 minutes of coaching this weekend to help my nine-year-old son not get chocolate milk over the full chin to just-below-eyeball area. And I always thought it’s so cute. But finally I was like, wait a minute, maybe he actually doesn’t know how to do this. And so it took like 20 minutes of just not making him not a disaster with a hot chocolate Starbucks. And then the second it was over, I just been reading your book, and I just felt simultaneously kind of devastated.

Mary Louise: There’s never going to be chocolate milk all over the whole face again.

Kate: It’s so stupid and so small. But you’re just the accumulation of all of these little, little glimmers. Like all the glitter that you just don’t realize is all in a pile. And then just kind of sprinkling it to the wind I suppose with every day.

Mary Louise: And realizing it’s you as the parent. Your kid is not going to miss having the chocolate milk mustache one way or the other. They’re fine. They’re moving on. It’s you that’s going to sit there and always think, oh yeah, I loved that. I mean, again, this is the goal. This is what you want them to do is grow up and become these independent, amazing, thriving creatures. I now watch these creatures who are, you know, have like eight inches and, I don’t know, 75 pounds on me, wander around the house. And I think, where did you come from? How did we do that? How did that happen? But the little moments where I just think, God, you’re, you know, 17 years old. Obviously, you’re not asking me for bedtime stories anymore. But when did that stop? Like, when was the last one? I wish I’d known.

Kate: Yeah. “When was the last one?” Oh my gosh, Mary Louise, you’re kiling me. You know, you describe this really intense early moment when you realize that the “have it all” paradigm was kind of a terrible paradigm for you when you run into this old colleague and she is looking smokin hot. She has her life all together. She has heels on. Tell me tell me about that moment and the strange fork in the road feeling that it evoked.

Mary Louise: That moment was more a competitor than a colleague, somebody who worked at a rival news organization who I didn’t know that well, but who was on a similar beat to mine. And she was very good at it. And so I had been competitive with her and we had been pregnant around the same time, which was, you know, that was very visible. We would be at, you know, a press conference at the White House or whatever. And our bumps were growing and we were both, you know, complaining as we waddled around on swollen ankles and all the rest. I with my youngest took what was designed to be a one-year medical leave to help him sort through some speech therapy and other issues, which he totally did and he’s now thriving. But you don’t quite know, it’s not like kids wrap up their wrap up their therapy and it’s all great exactly when you were scheduled to go back to work. So it was open-ended and my newsroom was not leaving a beat open for me. And I’d had to move all my stuff out of my desk and it wasn’t quite clear what I was going back to or if I was going back. And so I was fully stay-at-home mom. And I ran into this colleague who was still very much on the beat and breaking stories. And she did look absolutely great and killer heels and ran into her as I was pushing my son in the stroller down the street and we chatted for a minute. The knife to the heart was she didn’t recognize me because I think I looked so not-put-together in killer heels, headed to the White House for an interview. But we chatted for a few minutes and she left. And I had this long moment of standing on the sidewalk, desperately wanting to feel at peace with my choices because I was happy to be with my son. I wanted to help my son. He was doing great, but looking at her and thinking: That’s what I’m not doing. Like, that’s what I gave up and beating myself up for it and thinking, have I thrown away my career? And if so, it would be worth it because I love my kids and they’re the number one priority, of course, but, looking at her, I missed all the things I wasn’t doing and the person who she would have recognized and thought, where did that woman go? And I beat myself up for a long time and then I ran into her, I don’t know, a year or more later, I ran into her again and she had left her job and started doing a consultancy thing. But she said to me, “You know, I cried for a while after I ran into you.” And I looked at her and thought, “Why, really?” And she said, Because you looked so happy and you were with your son and you all were singing. And it was this beautiful morning. And I think you were headed to the park. And I was like, stuffed into my power suit and my Spanx and after, you know, had dropped my kid at daycare and wasn’t headed to the park with them and thought, “What am I doing with my life?” And I said, “That’s the same thought! I also cried and thought, ‘What am I doing with my life?'” And then we kind of looked at each other and thought, there’s not a single one of us on this planet that has figured out how on any given morning you go do your high power interview and live the dream that you thought you were preparing for in high school and college, and take your kid to the park and sing to them as you push down the street. And we want to be able to do all those things. And I certainly haven’t figured out what the answer is. It’s so much about what we choose to see. You know, what she saw was what she wanted. I looked at her and thought, that’s what I want. And if we all just were a little easier, a little gentler on ourselves and thought, you know, you can’t have it all at once, but maybe you can do it step by step.

Kate: Yeah. You’re so delicate about naming that hunger, how hard it is to give up a paradigm of perfect choices and then live with like a little bit of grief that at every moment in which if we are very lucky and have something we love, we simultaneously, if there’s so many versions of who we could have been. I think that’s letting ourselves feel that kind of hungry not-quite-settledness. That strange liminality that I think especially women have to live with. While usually being forced to say, and I just love that you don’t make us go on script. Because like, it’s true, “your kids are your number one.” And also and also.

Mary Louise: Well and the profound knowledge of how lucky I was to be able to have made that choice and stay at home with my son or go back to work and sort out childcare for him. I understand and appreciate all of that.

Kate: But even at our most lucky, I really believe this, as someone who’s been very sick and someone who’s been less sick, even when I’m so grateful to have survived. I mean, the “being grateful” sometimes a little bit skips over a certain way that people ask women to tell the story of what we wanted to have, of just hope. And I remember the first time I realized that almost all my female colleagues in the same cohort group had one child and all the men had three, and we would all have told the same story. I’m so lucky to get this job. I’m so lucky to… I’m so lucky and so lucky. And also, I think we are all just as even at our best, a little bit heartbroken.

Mary Louise: Yeah, well, I think I think it is true that the job of parenting is endless. Wonderful but endless. And the default remains the mom in our society for so many of the expectations and the things. And that is changing and wonderful ways. But not that long ago, you know, 15 years ago when my kids were babies, the default was the mom. You were the one who was getting the call from school. You were the one who was, you know, sorting out all the arrangements and in the park and also the one who wants to go out and do all the things you promised yourself you’d do in the world.

Kate: Yes, totally. I had this really rough few months after I was diagnosed when we weren’t sure that I would make it through the year. But it was it was the one year where I was supposed to do all my work in order to keep my job. And I could have. I just wasn’t .. I felt like the reverse version of the lottery question, like, what would you do if you won a million dollars? And I couldn’t figure out if I should still work. And I was just absolutely torn up about it. And then after I gave a lecture, two friends sat me down and they they said, “Kate, whatever you choose,” talking about my son, “he will find you there.” And I thought, what a beautiful way to think about the feeling that it’s your mom that’s on the radio or it’s your mom that’s the one that goes off and works as a nurse or as a teacher. We do hope to be found, I think, by what we do.

Mary Louise: Yeah, totally. To be found and to be seen and to be heard. And, you know, when you’re a parent and you have a teenager, you are about the least interesting person on earth to them. I say that with first-hand knowledge. My children are way more interested in my work when they were little, and now they’re like, “Yeah, whatever.” Which is fine because they’re off doing their thing. And it is part of the process that they are not interested in hanging with mom. But the little glimpses you get of that … they’re not listening every minute, but they are watching what we do. They are, you know, taking it in one way or the other, the little bits and pieces of it. And yeah, I found sometimes you hope that they just are taking it in through bits and pieces and sometimes you need to tell them as they get older. These are the trade-offs. This is the decision I made. This is what it costs so that I can be here with you now, not to, you know, not for any guilt-trip type reason at all. But it’s important to kind of advocate. You need to see all of us in this family are making trade-offs to make it work. And I need you to recognize a little bit what’s important to me and why I do it.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it sounds to like in doing it, there are some real virtues that I am working on right now. Like you are hella brave. You really are. You have very intense badassery.

Mary Louise: No, I don’t think. Thank you. I don’t think so. I think I’m just really deeply curious about so many places and people. And it feels as I look around the world, like there are so many people’s stories that need to get told and they’re like a zillion things I can’t do. There are so many things I do poorly. Again, ask my children, but I do know how to go somewhere and talk to people and tell a story. And that whole bearing witness to something, to somebody else’s story and struggle and trying to find human connection I find just endlessly, endlessly fascinating. So that will take you to all kinds of places.

Kate: That story about the guinea pig I thought was such a wonderful example of being able to make a human connection and make it matter. I wonder if you could tell me what happened.

Mary Louise: Thank you for saying that. The guinea pig is a Ukrainian guinea pig. And the the very brief version of the story is I was in Ukraine right before the war. So January of 2022 and I was doing all the interviews you do when there are 100,000 Russian tanks lined up at the border of Ukraine, trying to talk to everybody we could talk to about, you know, how they saw this from inside Ukraine. One of the people we interviewed was a very prominent, well-known woman in Ukraine, originally promiment because she was one of the big leaders of the Maidan independence protests. And then through that, her work, she was elected to parliament and she became chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and had traveled the world and served in parliament. When I interviewed her, she had stepped away and decided not to run for reelection. And I was asking her about Ukraine and human rights and sanctions and all the rest, but was also curious, you know, why did you step away? Did you think you couldn’t achieve what you wanted from inside the government anymore? What was it she was like? No, it’s because I never saw my daughter, because I traveled all the time and I was never home. And my daughter deserved a mom. And she said, and speaking of which, in our big dilemma this weekend, this is again, Russian tanks on the border war is coming, the study drum beat.

Kate: The coming apocalypse!

Mary Louise: The coming apocalypse. Vladimir Putin is about to lay siege to your country. The big problem on Hanna Hopko’s mind was that her then 11-year-old daughter wanted a guinea pig and had gotten good grades and had earned it. But everyone in Kiev at the time was packing, you know, emergency suitcases and stocking up on provisions and trying to figure out their escape plan if war came. And Hanna Hopko was saying, “I don’t know how I managed to evacuate my family and my daughter and a guinea pig in a cage with all its kibbles or whatever it eats.” And she started crying. She was so stressed out and I started crying and I just thought, “God, I can relate.” Like, I don’t think there’s a parent on the planet that can’t relate … like that’s going to be the thing that tips you over the edge is the stress of how do I evacuate the damn guinea pig? And it all came to pass, as we know, and Putin did invade and the troops did pour across the border and she did manage to get her daughter to safety in the West with grandparents. But the guinea pig was in Kiev! To this day. At least as of December, when I last spoke to Hannah, they were trying to figure out how to get everybody back together, including the guinea pig. And I thought there was so much wrapped up in that and as a journalist, we spent a long portion of the interview, that it started out about, you know, sanctions and what NATO’s should do and the international alliance. And we’re both crying about this rodent. And I thought, this is just a very different interview than I would have conducted in my twenties. I would you know, I would have been like, who cares if some random kid gets a pet? It’s, you know, there are armies of a continent on the march. That’s the story. And it, you know. You turn 50. You have kids. You have a pet. And you realize that’s the story. Like that’s the story. There’s a million people who can tell me about Russian troop movements. There’s one woman who can bring it home of what somebody in Ukraine is facing, trying to take care of their family and trying to figure out how do we get the pet food, you know, on the train to the grandparents and Lviv and then over the border into Poland, and that feeling of there’s not a parent on the planet who wouldn’t relate. You know, none of us or very few of us outside Ukraine know what it is like to stare down a convoy of Russian tanks aimed at your city, trying to destroy it. That’s hard to relate to … relating to trying to keep your kid and their pet safe in the face of danger when there’s just no good options like. It’s going to make me crazy. I’ve been checking in with her all year, you know, in the years since that happened. And one of the first questions is always, how is your daughter? How’s the guinea pig? And they’re fine, hanging in there, but the family is still not together. They’re still, you know, in the middle of just the worst of times, obviously. And being able to tell those stories. That’s something I’ve learned. That’s what makes people care.

Kate: Because you’re looking out over such a big landscape, I mean, geopolitically and saying, how did it come to this? And then you’re looking into the deepest parts of her heart. How did it come to this? Yes, Yes. I imagine that because the amount of redefinition it takes to be a person in the world, it’s continues to surprise me.

Mary Louise: What do you mean? What do you mean redefinition?

Kate: Like how many times do we have to decide what matters in our lives as we totally reboot the entire project? Like you describe different acts of your life. You describe this as “act three.” What is act three like for you right now?

Mary Louise: I feel like act one was everything before kids, me trying to figure out how to be a grown up. Act two has been becoming a mom and that gets its own act because it totally changed my life and what the priorities are and what feels important. And act three. I’m obviously still a parent and always will be and will always have that be the most important thing in my life. But inevitably, as your kids take up less time and need you less and go out into the world as they’re supposed to do. You know, my oldest is now off at college. I just came back last night from a college trip with my youngest to North Carolina, looking around and starting to see, ok, this is coming. We still got a year and a half but this is coming and you’re going to be out there. And so act three is … All right, there’s all this spac and this time again. And my heart will never go back to what it was before kids. My heart is always walking around with them now. It always will be. But the idea of like, it’s Saturday, what should I do to fill the day? What can I do today? That hasn’t occurred to me in eighteen years. Just the idea of having any free time on the weekend. And starting to think about, ok, what now. What next? Cause I kind of feel like I know what I’m doing at work and I like it. I kind of hopefully am starting to figure out what really matters in terms of priorities in life. But I have all this time and space to create a whole new act. And you also, I guess inevitably, if you’re remotely realistic, have to realize in your fifties you don’t have infinite acts left. You’re in act one and act two and they seem so long and you have so many choices, so many do-overs, to go back to what we talked about at the beginning. And I guess at the age of 51, I have to acknowledge like I’m not going to be an astronaut, I’m not going to be a ballerina, I’m not going to be all these things that at one point seemed possible. What do I want to do? What does this chapter look like or this act look like in a moment when, as we all know, our lives have all been rendered unrecognizable by a pandemic. And whether you have kids or not, you do come to these crossroads in your life where you make a choice and start to realize there aren’t going to be infinite more choices. I want to be intentional about this one. I want to do something that matters to the people around me and that maybe, you know, with no illusion that I’m saving the world every day through my day job, but maybe leaves this earth a little better than I found it, that would be worth doing. What does that look like? Yeah. And who do you want on that journey with you? What’s that going to look like?

Kate: I think one of the things I struggle with most is the limited agency. That feeling like once we give up the feeling of having unlimited choices. I could do anything. I could be anyone. But we don’t want to put too much pressure on our limitations. One of the things I could see you were thinking so carefully about is the 18 summers, 18 years at home. But that can, like, squeeze in a little bit, too. You know what I mean? That like, you’re you don’t want it to sort of make you the “gratitude police” of your own life. And yet, you know, everything counting also creates its own urgency. Yeah. I wondered I wondered if you had any advice on how to balance that: giving up choice and yet not being, like, so hyper vigilant?

Mary Louise: Yeah, I have thought about this a lot because my day job, trying to get a two-hour nightly news program on the air every night, is an exercise in deadline pressure, intense deadline pressure. You don’t have hours. You don’t have days to do this or hours to do this or minutes. Sometimes you got seconds till your mic opens and you go and you either love that or you hate that. And I love it in many ways because it forces me to be productive. I have to put a two-hour program on the show every night, whether I feel like it or not, whether I have any brilliant ideas to put on the air, any brilliant questions to ask, whether I’m on my A-game or not. But the beauty of it is some days you nail it and the perfect question pops into your head or, you know, the perfect interview comes through. It’s great. Other days, you don’t. People don’t return your calls or you put your foot in it and say something stupid that you regret or you failed to ask the “captain obvious” follow-up question that you then kick yourself for the next month for not asking. But either way, it’s done and the next day you have to get up to it all over again. It’s a clean slate. That’s super frustrating because if you have a brilliant day, it’s all like, you know, by the next week, it’s this distant memory that no one cares. But I love the clean slate aspect of it. And the different challenge, obviously a very different challenge, of being a parent, of writing a book like this, is that I didn’t want the clean slate. I wanted to reckon with what I was thinking about and sit with it and have it stick. And in the moment when I was doing it, I wasn’t trying to write a book reflecting on my kids when they were toddlers. I mean, you know, I love them, but I don’t know that the rest of America needs to sit and, you know, remember how cute my kids were when they were two? I wanted to sit with this moment of the trade-offs and be very intentional about recording and living it in real time. And it was a very useful exercise to be writing something in real time where you’re like, I don’t know what the next chapter is. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Which I suppose boils down to the advice of just try to be in the moment. Just there’s so much we can’t control in the future. We certainly can’t control the past. This little moment … like this is it. This is all. This is all you got, really.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. You really do make attentiveness, which you can just see all over your work, but you can see it all over your love. And that has made it an absolute joy sharing a brain with you. Thank you so much for doing this with me. Honestly, what a joy.

Mary Louise: Thank you. I wish we had more time because there’s lots I would love to ask you so many of the questions you’ve asked me. That’s my instinct as professional interviewers to filter out and say, Well, but what do you think? So thank you for hearing me out this and forcing me to think through some of this. This has been a lot of fun.

Kate: Aging really is a privilege. And this is what it looks like to watch people outgrow us, to watch our kids outgrow those adorable little footie pajamas or to hold our parents hands when they used to be the ones who stabilized us, to lean into the comfort of friends who know us over time and alll the good and the humiliating details that comes with. But this is what it means to age. The grief, the loss, the love, the change. Just all of it. So I thought maybe it might be nice to have a little blessing for that feeling of aging and our hope to stay wide awake to all of it. So here’s a blessing for aging gracefully. “Blessed are you who have reached a new age. Even if it doesn’t seem to fit. It may feel too big. Too reductive. Too limiting. It may be marked by a life you barely recognize. The kids who have all moved out or settled somewhere far away. Or they’ve never left and you’re wondering if you’ll ever get that home office or craft room. The work that no longer sets the daily hum. The life partner who is gone and friends who’ve outlived. The body which doesn’t allow for the hobby you loved anymore. Or that monthly check that doesn’t provide the flexibility you’d hope for. Wasn’t I just young a second ago? Will I ever recognize the person staring back in the mirror? What’s left to do that really counts? And how do I know if I am or ever was … enough? God give us eyes to notice the ways that life can still be beautiful and rich and full in the midst of so much that has been lost. Remind us that you are not done with us yet. For the God who spoke us into being calls us even now. Not to an ideal or role, but to a moment. This one. In a world that equates age with liability, it’s time for a reminder that you are a gift. You give advice. You hold on to family recipes. You remember that thing that happened, and honestly, we shouldn’t have forgotten. You think our kids are beautiful and our bad partners really should be soundly dumped. You kept the photo album. You hold our stories. Thank you. Even when the world isn’t paying attention, may you get a glimmer of a reminder that these little things add up to something that is and always will be beautiful.” This episode of the Everything Happens podcast was made possible because of our generous partners: Lilly Endowment, the Duke Endowment, Duke Divinity School and Leadership Education. And of course, nothing is possible without the wisdom and expertise of my absolutely fabulous team. Jessica Richie, my heart, I love you. Harriet Putman, Keith Weston, Gwen Heginbotham, Brenda Thompson, Hope Anderson, Jeb Burt and Katherine Smith. This really is my very favorite kind of group project so if you want to know what else we’re up to, head over to so you don’t miss a thing. I would really love to hear what you thought about this episode. Would you consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify? It means a ton to us when we hear what you liked or who you want to hear in conversation next. Also, we really love hearing your voice. Feel free to leave us a voicemail. We might even use it on the air. So call us at 919-322-8731. All right, lovelies. I’ll talk to you next week. But in the meantime, come find me online at @katecbowler. This is Everything Happens with me, Kate Bowler.

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